ISEF in Canada with Nate

The hotel in Hamilton, Ontario was part of the chain found in the United States. The television was familiar, but the news commentator on V-E day had the audacity to talk exclusively about Canadian troops.

That should have been enough to tell me I had left the USA. But I was startled as I turned to watch a sitcom rerun of “Who’s the Boss?” but with Canadian actors. Since I already knew the ending. I left before it was over to go the the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
The 920 ISEF projects were displayed in the Coppes Coliseum Before the projects were judged, admission was closely monitored. As we waited to enter, a pudgy teen in front of us turned and looked at my son’s orange identification tag and ribbon. On the ribbon was a collection of plastic Arkansas shaped pins and a few shaped metal pins from other states.

Pointing at my son’s pins he asked with a French accent, “Trade?”
It took a lengthy discussion and the interpreting skills of a fellow student but eventually a Quebec pin was traded for a Florida pin.
During the week of the setting-up, judging and showing of the ISEF, my new high school graduate mingled with students from Taiwan, Kentucky, Idaho, Paraguay and other places in a quest to trade pins. Occasionally he stopped, looked at the displays and swapped stories about the time required in research and experimentation to reach ISEF.

I traded a few pins of my own, took pictures of exhibits and talked with exhibitors. The diversity of projects was astounding. IN zoology, a shy 10-grade brunette’s project used her six cats and one voice graph to determine which cat food they liked best. A couple aisles over in Medicine Health, a smiling blonde senior showed off her four-year project on a plant she had discovered that had medicinal purposes. Her research has been accepted for early entrance for her doctoral thesis in the graduate program of the college she will enter this fall.
During Tuesday’s fun night, a proud New York father of a son participating for the third time did not pause long enough for me to tell him about my son. At the adult mixer on Wednesday, I tried smoked salmon and French pastries while chatting with a Bostonian teacher in evening gown and an Iowan in cowboy boots, hat and jeans. Thursday we all sat through two three-hour sessions of award ceremonies where thousands of dollars in scholarships, prizes, trips and cash were awarded to half the projects.

At the open house on Friday, my son explained his project to some of the 10,000 students touring the fair. Sunday, relaxing at home, he declared, “After this week at ISEF in Canada, I could work with students on science fair projects being a science teacher might be fun.”
Another new notion from a short visit to a different country.